Round 11 in the NRL season gets underway on Thursday night this week with the North Queensland Cowboys hosting the Newcastle Knights from Queensland Country Bank Stadium. Greg Davis is bac on deck to preview the game in full and give his betting tips below.
North Queensland Cowboys v Newcastle Knights
Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville, 7.50pm
NORTH QUEENSLAND: 1. Valentine Holmes 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Javid Bowen 4. Connelly Lemuelu 5. Murray Taulagi 6. Scott Drinkwater 7. Jake Clifford 8. Tom Gilbert 9. Reece Robson 10. Jordan McLean 11. Shane Wright 12. Mitchell Dunn 13. Jason Taumalolo. Interchange: 14. Jake Granville 15. Lachlan Burr 16. Francis Molo 17. Heilum Luki 18. Corey Jensen 19. Daejarn Asi 20. Ben Condon 21. Kane Bradley.
NEWCASTLE: 1. Tex Hoy 2. Starford To’a 3. Enari Tuala 4. Bradman Best 5. Brayden Musgrove 6. Kurt Mann 7. Phoenix Crossland 8. David Klemmer 9. Jayden Brailey 10. Daniel Saifiti 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 13. Mitchell Barnett. Interchange: 14. Connor Watson 15. Jacob Saifiti 16. Sauaso Sue 17. Brodie Jones 18. Simi Sasagi 19. Josh King 20. Gehamat Shibasaki 21. Blake Green
IT might not look like a match-up for the ages when the 11th-placed Newcastle travel to Townsville for the Thursday night blockbuster timeslot clash with the 12th-placed Cowboys.
But what it has going for it is that it’s a classic “double points” contest with both sides desperate to win to drag themselves out of the mid-table mire.
The Cowboys and Knights are two of the five teams that have win-loss records of 4-6 and stretch from eighth to 12th on the NRL ladder after 10 rounds.
They both suffered losses in Magic Round at Suncorp Stadium last weekend but both escaped any suspensions from the NRL’s curiously timed ‘cranium crackdown’ that had match officials ejecting more people than a Caxton Street bouncer on. Saturday night.
The Knights will be without fullback Kalyn Ponga (hip) again after he missed Newcastle’s disappointing loss to the Wests Tigers.
Newcastle is not the first team to suffer the conundrum of “no (insert superstar name), no (club name)’’.
Back in the day, you just had to ask the Knights when Andrew Johns wasn’t playing, or the Broncos without Darren Lockyer or the Cowboys without Johnathan Thurston. Manly without Tommy Turbo is a more modern day example.
Ponga was racing the clock to be fit but the early Thursday night timeslot was his biggest enemy. Superstars make their teams significantly better, that’s why they on the big bucks. And Newcastle will now be decidedly more pedestrian without the Maroons star.
How Newcastle respond to coach Adam O’Brien’s scathing post-match spray about the club’s losing culture in recent times will be interesting. The Knights don’t have a particularly deep roster and have been hit by injuries. O’Brien can rant all he wants but the current cattle at his disposal (especially without Ponga) doesn’t instil much confidence.
The Cowboys had won four of their five outings before falling to the Roosters last Saturday. Valentin Holmes had a kick at goal that would have levelled the scores in the second half but the James Tedesco-inspired Chooks showed their class in the dying stages to kick away from North Queensland who scored all their points when the Roosters were reduced to 12 men.
But the Cowboys did push a powerhouse (albeit an injury-ravaged Roosters) while the Knights were well beaten by a rejigged Wests Tigers side that has been far more awful than awesome in 2021.
North Queensland are 3-2 at home this season while the Knights are no slouches on the road with a 3-2 record when they venture away from the Hunter Valley.
The Cowboys will be coming off just a five-day break but nobody in the NRL has done more defensive work in 2021 than the Knights.
But North Queensland should have too much firepower in this one and should salute at home.